Perched on a sloping hill, set away from a small town by the sea, the High House has a tide pool and a mill, a vegetable garden, and, most importantly, a barn full of supplies. Caro, Pauly, Sally, and Grandy are safe, so far, from the rising water that threatens to destroy the town and that has, perhaps, already destroyed everything else. But for how long?
Where it excels is in its characters’ recollection of the slow, incremental progress towards disaster, and the effort ordinary people made, every day, to block their knowledge of it out ... Despite its bleak subject matter, this is a book suffused with the joy and fulfilment of raising a child ... Greengrass is excellent on the complex currents that can develop between people who live in close proximity ... But as the novel jumps back and forth in time, the very gradual filling-in of information about the High House and who Sally is creates something of a slow start ... Short, numbered sections and fragmented speech presentation also get in the way of a truly immersive reading experience, so the book is ultimately not as emotionally affecting as it deserves to be ... The High House stands out, for Greengrass understands that perhaps the best writers and artists can hope for now is to help us admit, accept and process our collective failure to act.
The novel’s verisimilitude is striking...it’s done with restraint and propelled by finely observed dynamics between characters who grapple with survivors’ guilt and ungraspable truths ... Described in measured, meditative prose, humanity’s paralysis is painful to read: the myopic faith in the status quo, the fearful waiting game ... In Greengrass’s vivid realisation of the consequences of inaction, the day cannot be saved, only deferred. Yet the bleak inexorability and earnest tone are mitigated by her moving, spiritual evocations of love, grief and a landscape haunted by its ruined past. This sobering prophecy of collective guilt is also a hypnotic elegy to nature, and our vanishing place in it.
Absorbing ... Among other things, this is a story of self-preservation, and the way we cling to the everyday in the face of uncertainty ... The narrative skips back and forth in time, propelled throughout by an urgent sense of unease. As it unfolds, it becomes more fragmented, the three first-person voices melding into one another like the seasons ... The premiss is dark, but Greengrass’s lyrical prose brings glimmers of light .